One of the characteristics of this awful government is that they manage to present even ideas with a modicum of sense in a way which ensures they will be unpopular.
Yesterday we had a classic example in the news that the new Health Secretary, Thérèse Coffey as part of her ‘Plan for Patients’ is planning to allow pharmacies to prescribe antibiotics (and other drugs) in some cases. It has also come out that she has said that she has handed out her own antibiotics to friends who were feeling unwell in the past. Reaction to this news has been swift – Stephen Baker, Professor of Microbiology at Cambridge said widening access to antibiotics was ‘nuts’ and Professor Penny Ward, of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine was equally scathing: “The Health Secretary really should take the time to familiarise herself with what is a difficult topic”
The problem of increasing resistance to antibiotics is a very real one with the potential to take us back to grim days when a scratch in the garden could lead to death from untreatable infections. There is a scope for allowing qualified medical professionals like pharmacists, nurses and physician associates to take on more responsibility. Under the coalition for example nurses and pharmacists were allowed to prescribe certain painkillers and in Scotland specially trained pharmacists have been allowed to prescribe antibiotics in some cases since 2016.
The right way to bring in something like this is surely by trying to bring together people like the Royal College of GPs, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and experts in antibiotics to support a review it as well as looking at the evidence of how it has worked in Scotland. But with this Government all we are likely to get is announcements without consultation, leading to ideas – which may have some merit, not having any traction and failing.
It’s all further evidence of why Ed Davey is right to say we need a General Election and a fresh start.
* Simon McGrath is a Councillor in Wimbledon and a directly elected member of the Federal Board.